The Braves finally pulled the plug on Dan Uggla for good, it seems. Tommy La Stella was promoted to help a bottom-three situation, and now fantasy owners want to know how much he can help their teams. Only fair.
The best news for La Stella is that he’s not likely to bust, at least when seen through the perspective of his walk and strikeout rates in the minor leagues. Chris St. John’s work on the subject suggests that his bust rate is below 40% based on the fact that La Stella walked 12.6% of the time in Triple-A and struck out only 7.1% of the time.
If you follow this line of reasoning, you’re happy to hear that his coaches love his gritty approach at the plate and laud his two-strike adjustments. You might interested to know that La Stella was one of six players to walk more than he struck out in the International League this year, and that he was the only one of the six that was 25 or younger. Obviously, this man can control the plate.
On the other hand, this is not a prospect with pedigree. Given that he was never ranked in the top 100 by Baseball America (he also didn’t make Marc Hulet’s top 100), La Stella should see a bust rate north of 70%.
And if you’re focusing on this lack of pedigree and the higher bust rate, you’re thinking about defense to some extent. Even the appreciative Baseball America post above includes a section in which La Stella has to tackle the things he has to work on defensively. There are questions about his ability to stick at second base at least. His bat probably doesn’t fit anywhere lower on the defensive spectrum, so there you’d have a bust.
His fantasy bust rate has more to do with power and speed. Just a quick perusal of his high-minors ISOs (all below average) shows that his power upside is not immense. He’s stolen 11 bases since the 2013 season began. Even if you pro-rate his projections out to a full season from here on out — which ignores the other second basemen still in Atlanta (fair) — you only get four homers and four stolen bases from here on out.
Batting average is one part contact, one part power, and one part discipline, it seems. That covers your basic hit tool, power tool, and plate tool, and though this is hard to tease out in the research, we do know that the batting average on a strikeout is zero, and that power can turn outs into hits (think of the low line drive versus the outfield line drive).
We know that Tommy La Stella has two thirds of what he needs in order to show a good batting average. But if you want to know his downside, look at Marco Scutaro. Scutaro is elite when it comes to contact, has good plate discipline, but his lack of power has kept his career batting average under .280.
For the Braves, a .280-hitting second baseman with patience would be an upgrade, no matter how much power or speed he has. For your fantasy team, however, it looks like La Stella is a better bet if you’re in a deep league.
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